Invitation to Love

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 31st, 2021 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 12:28-34

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Many of us ask questions like, “Who’s number one? What’s the best this or that? Or if we have too much interest in sports, who’s going to win the World Series or the Super Bowl or the Fed Ex Cup or my daughter or son’s little league baseball championship? Maybe we are pre-programed for creating hierarchies. If we are going to invest ourselves in something, we want to be on the side of what’s best. Or what’s most important.

Thus, Jesus was asked about his assessment of what was most important among all the commandments of the religion he shared with those he lived among. Starting with number one, then number two, and so on. We may not know this, but according to biblical historians there were hundreds of commandments then on the books.

Most of us likely know how he answered this inquiry. First, love God with all that we can. With a generous heart. With all our thoughts and desires. With all the energy available to us. This commandment was well known as it formed the heart of the Jewish prayer to be said each morning upon rising.

Coming in a number two is the command to love your neighbor as yourself. I must say that the number one commandment can be a bit difficult to pin down or quantify. That’s partly because love itself can at times be amorphous especially if the focus is loving no less than God. Loving God can also be less than tangible or clear.

On the other hand, loving neighbor is much more concrete, specific and terribly tangible. It encompasses the people near us at any moment – those others who are positioned close to us day by day. In that sense, neighbor may include members of the same family, those who live in the same neighborhood or labor at the same workplace. Some neighbors may be ours for our whole lifetime and some for just a few minutes. Thus, we sense the hard edge of the second commandment.

Further, there’s much discussion these days about disunity in our world and in our country. Thus, there are many opportunities to faithfully respond to the invitation given us by the second commandment. The gospel doesn’t mention how the scribe – a religious scholar of that time – reacted to the words of Jesus about the two most important commandments. But we can guess what was on his mind -and ours - in reflecting on the challenges involved. Probably they were like ours, which might be summarizes as, “That’s really difficult!”  

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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